Okonomiyaki at Osaka Botejyu (Osaka)

April 14, 2013 in Food, Japan, Reviews, Travel by pacejmiller

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One of my favourite foods in the world is okonomiyaki, a savoury Japanese pancake made with batter and containing whatever ingredients you fancy (but mostly cabbage and an assortment of meats), topped off with tangy okonomiyaki sauce (basically a sweeter, thicker Worcestershire sauce), seaweed flakes, bonito flakes, and of course, loads of Japanese mayo. Yum!

The dish, according to legend, originated in Osaka (or at least the Kansai area — I have no proof or sources for this claim whatsoever). One of the most famous okonomiyaki franchises in the world with (according to its website) 79 restaurants around the world, is Botejyu, which has been around since 1946.

BUT, I must stipulate upfront that the place we ended up going to was NOT Botejyu. For weeks I thought it was, but as it turned out, we only went to a similar place called Osaka Botejyu (大阪ぼてぢゅう), established in 1953, and I assume, a rip-off of the original.

It’s not my fault though. We just grabbed a brochure from one of those tourist information places and looked for Botejyu, and the only one they had was Osaka Botejyu, so we thought it was one and the same. It’s not a lousy establishment by any means — there are two stores (used to be three) around Osaka’s famous Dotonbori. And besides, I can always go to a Botejyu in Taiwan.

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This is where the chefs prepare the okonomiyaki before shifting it over to your own personal hotplate

The particular Osaka Botejyu we went to on this rainy night looked pretty old and was infused with that traditional Japanese flavour. The restaurant has a central kitchen where the chefs prepare the okonomiyaki and then shift it over to the hotplate at your booth, where you can top it off with whatever condiments you would like to add and cut it up however you want to. All the bottles — regular sauce, extra sweet sauce, spicy sauce and hot yellow mustard — are there on your table along with the seaweed and bonito flakes for you to add to your heart’s content.

The menus (which had English descriptions) were old and in plastic sleeves, but that just added to the charm of the place. We ended up ordering two things for two people — a mixed okonomiyaki (1,100 yen), which has everything, and a deluxe yaki udon (1,630 yen), which has everything and seafood such as prawns and squid. The yaki udon essentially replaces the batter with udon noodles, but apart from that the flavours are quite similar. The more common form of exchange is the batter for soba noodles, but we preferred the thickness and texture of udon.

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Yaki udon

The udon came first, which I had with copious amounts of Japanese mayo. I believe it is the best yaki udon I have ever had. Seriously. The ingredients were fresh and the noodles were of just the right hardness. It is, however, the sauces that pushes the dish to another level. It’s always the damn sauces.

The okonomiyaki came second, and as you can see here, it looked pretty average on arrival.

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But after we were done with decorating it, the okonomiyaki looked awesome!

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And tasted awesome. That said, you know what? I actually liked the yaki udon more. I think part of the reason was because we were still eating the udon when the okonomiyaki was dropped on our hotplate, and after we finished adding and sauces and flakes it was already a little overcooked. I like my okonomiyaki a little wet on the inside but this one had become a little dry. The sauces helped salvage the pancake somewhat, but I have to admit I’ve had better elsewhere.

On the whole, a nice okonomiyaki meal that I would recommend. Having since been to a Botejyu in Taiwan, I think Osaka Botejyu definitely holds its own against the juggernaut. In particular, the okonomiyaki recipe at Osaka Botejyu doesn’t include soba or udon noodles, which I personally prefer (I like my noodles and okonomiyaki separate). And their yaki udon is remarkable.

8.5/10

Details

Osaka Botejyu (大阪ぼてぢゅう)

Website: http://www.osaka-botejyu.com/index.html (Japanese only)

Stores: http://www.osaka-botejyu.com/shop/index.html — both in the Namba district — can click on map for directions.